Barring trade or injury, the Atlanta Braves have one rotation spot to fill with at least three legitimate contenders. The youngest and possibly most hyped is Julio Teheran. Teheran, who will be 21 on Opening Day, was ranked no. 5 among all minor league prospects by Baseball America for 2011.
Though Teheran's 2011 Major League stats show a 5.03 ERA, that is inflated by two relief appearances in September that saw him throw a combined 5 2/3 innings and allow five earned runs right in the middle of the Braves' collapse.
Teheran's three spot starts, ranging from two in May to one in early September, may be too small of a sample to adequately judge how the young righty will fair in the big leagues. He got the short end of the stick with his Major League debut against the Philadelphia Phillies, when he went just 4 2/3 innings and gave up three runs. He would then give up two runs to the Arizona Diamondbacks in his next start and one to the New York Mets in his final start.
The downside to his starts, though he went 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA, would be that he never more than 5 1/3 innings, but that may be Fredi Gonzalez attempting to save a young arm. He also gave up two walks in every appearance until his final relief appearance, when he surrendered no free passes in three innings.
A quick look at Teheran's minor league numbers will show his true potential as well as why he won the MLB.com Triple-A Pitcher of the Year.
Even in 2008, the then 17-year-old Colombia native racked up 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings in Rookie-A Danville. Since then, Teheran has consistently put up power pitcher numbers, topping it off with a 15-3 record and a miniscule 2.55 ERA in 2011 in Triple-A Gwinnett.
Teheran may have a similar body type to Tim Hudson at 6'2" and 175 pounds, but he does through about three miles per hour harder and tops out at about 96. He is not afraid to throw inside with his fastball and has very good command of it, and he repeats solid mechanics regularly. Teheran throws a sharp breaking ball with average command that could be improved, but his better off-speed pitch is his mid-80s change-up, which has good downward action.
Regardless of his youth and the fact that he has worked through a bit of shoulder tendonitis, Teheran already has Major League confidence (and some may say cockiness) and solid stuff, which may force the Braves into making a tough call during Spring Training.
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